Rolando Alvarez is the Founder of TUINFO, a company that develops self-sustaining Wi-Fi hotspots in rural parts of Bolivia. TUINFO hopes to close the digital divide for low-income individuals in rural areas. Sharing his story, Rolando answered a few questions from the YLAI Network that address the emergence and success of his business.
The emergence of TUINFO:
Affordable access to the internet has always been a major challenge in Bolivia, particularly in suburban and rural areas. Rolando encountered this first-hand when living in a suburban part of La Paz.
After becoming an engineer and working for the biggest telecom company in Bolivia for several years, Rolando realized he “could do so much more for the people being an entrepreneur because there are too many limitations working as an employee for a big company.” As an entrepreneur, you can create a successful business by identifying an often overlooked niche market and transforming it into an affordable service, which is what he has done with TUINFO. The YLAI Network’s course Fundamentals of Starting and Running a Business highlights the tools needed for developing a business and emerging into the marketplace.
To get started, Rolando reached out to two friends from college and shared his idea, convincing them to join the new startup. The trio began deploying their WiFi hotspots in suburban areas of La Paz.
Obstacles encountered and surmounted:
Rolando explains, “We started to get bullied by a large telecom operator to the point that they pushed us out of suburban areas. In that time my two friends had to quit TUINFO and go back to their old jobs, we lost a lot of money in lawyers and administrative processes.” Rolando as well as his two friends had invested their lives’ savings in the company, and it was very difficult to get financial backing with limited economic resources.
However, Rolando made the decision to persevere and continue with TUINFO. He moved the business to rural areas where the hostile telecom operator did not have any services. It was a difficult time due to the lack of capital, but Rolando persisted despite the difficulties deploying the network.
Encouragement and Discouragement:
Rolando says that the common misconception that people adopt the title of “entrepreneur” in place of a lack of employment is discouraging. However, Rolando’s wife, one of his brothers, and some college friends encouraged him as he persevered with the company.
YLAI Network tools Rolando uses:
Rolando finds the YLAI Network’s weekly newsletters featuring online courses and tools & resources for young leaders and entrepreneurs particularly helpful as he continues to grow his business. The YLAI Fellowship Program has also been a great accelerator. During his Fellowship experience, Rolando met other entrepreneurs from the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
TUINFO is approximately two and a half years old to date and Rolando hopes to see his business in all of Latin America in the next ten years.
His advice to emerging entrepreneurs:
- Persevere as you search for opportunities in troubled times.
- Test your product or service as soon as it can be produced at a small scale.
- Build a network of peers and mentors, trusted friends and colleagues, to whom you can reach out for help and advice.
Rolando has demonstrated through the success of TUINFO an entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance that we hope will inspire other entrepreneurs and YLAI Network members to follow their business and personal ambitions.
Editor’s note: To learn more about starting a business, check out the YLAI Network’s Entrepreneurship Handbook and the accompanying YLAI Network toolkit (también en español). These resources, as well as the “Designing Your Vision” goal worksheet, include foundational concepts for developing the mindset and ideas to nurture a successful business.
Become a YLAI Network member to learn about more opportunities to expand your entrepreneurial spirit and business!